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Winter Campaign – The Search for Juggy!

The end of November traditionally sees the end for me of fishing on my syndicates and a time to move on to a new water for the winter, a different challenge and this year I had a ticket for a large lake in Buckinghamshire with a history of winter form. That was until I received a message from a friend of mine saying he had purchased a lake very near to me and was planning to keep it closed for the winter whilst urgent work needed to be undertaken on site and he offered me the opportunity to fish it to myself.

The lake in question I hadn’t fished for over 20 years, but it was a mature 5 acre estate lake, still having its own boat house and lily beds spread across the lake. I knew it had recently been restocked a couple of years back from when the previous owner took over and from what I could gather talking to a few of its old members it had around 200 fish in, with 15 over the 30lb mark.

The opportunity of being able to have a lake to myself and establish some spots with such a large stock meant my original plans where now long forgotten and a day session to get a feel for the place was planned for the first weekend in December.

Now bearing in mind I hadn’t fished this place since my very early 20’s, the first glimpse of it brought back some memories as I drove down the track with the lake at the side of me. I had been given the first key for the gate and opening it and driving into the carpark it was good to be back and somewhere so local to home during the winter months ahead.

That first session I opted to fish from a peg in the centre of the lake to enable me to view it all and see if I could find any signs of the fish, I spent most of the day pacing the bank, looking, drinking tea and the only signs I did see were actually in front of me no more than ten yards from the bank. I stood up from my shelter in the afternoon and as I did I spooked a fish ten yards in front, the bow wave it gave off as it spooked were big and that was all I needed to know that there was something in there worth going at. Then 20 minutes later I stood up again from the shelter and another fish spooked from the same spot.

Before I left I started what was to be eight weeks of putting 5kg of bait in, introducing it into three swims starting with the one that I was fishing. I would come down after work in the dark and

sometimes during the day with my business suit on and wellies just to keep the bait going in on the same areas.

As December progressed it finally started to come good with an overnight session each week producing three or four low to mid double fish, which for winter was giving me a bend in the rod and enabling me to try some new rigs. I was feeding bait in during the week, but when fishing just using bags of crushed boilie and crumb for some visual amongst the silty bottom. I was now using PB Products KD hook in size 4 and used it as part of the Ronnie rig setup. Feeding times where starting at dusk and finishing around 11pm, with one bite usually at first light, but nothing during daylight hours and the weather in December had seen snow, frosts and on more than a few occasions I visited to find the lake with a lid on it.

During December people where realising I was fishing the lake and a good friend of mine who was a bailiff on their previously contacted me with some information and I was also very pleased to receive from him pictures of the known fish in the lake.

As January started the lake just fished better and better with catches of seven or eight fish possible, but one thing that was obvious the large majority of the fish I was catching were low to upper doubles and chances of hooking a larger fish from a water like this was always going to be a numbers game with every now and then the odd surprise coming along.

With having the lake to myself, my friend had been so good to say I was welcome to bring a guest with me, so I took January as an opportunity to catch up with some friends before the Spring syndicate fishing began again and the socials finished.

My first session was with a good friend of mine Neil Whitlock and this was at the end of December on the 29th my last time that year I was able to fish. When we arrived we found the lake to be ¾ frozen over and to top it all it just started to rain and snow was spread across the countryside. We sat in the van looking out from the carpark over the lake and as the wind started to get up and the rain got heavier we decided to retreat to the local McDonalds and have some breakfast instead of being keen anglers and setting up in the pouring rain and then spending the whole session damp.

When we returned an hour later the wind had now cleared the ice had pushed the rain clouds over and the sun was slowly starting to make an appearance. It was one of those days where you have a very excited friend with you who can’t wait to get the rods out and you wondering whether the harsh frost last night might have killed any chance that we might have of catching anything.

We set up in the area I had been and still was prebaiting weekly, me to the left and my friend to the right. My right hand rod was the first to go and a upper double mirror made an appearance and a quick photo with what was now left of the snow in the background the fish was returned and we sat down to an evening catching up and putting the world to rights.

During the next few hours I went on to have another three fish low to mid double range and the early evening feeding spell had kicked in. I remember sitting there with my friend showing him the pictures of the fish the old bailiff had sent to me and there was a low 20 mirror with apple scales that I said would be nice to catch, well when that next run came there lay at the bottom of the net my first 20 from the water in the shape of the scaley mirror we had been looking at earlier.

When fishing in the winter it is a completely different experience to that of the summer, the constant cold chill, hours of darkness confined to your bivvy, for some and quite understandably they couldn’t think of anything worse, but for me I have night fished for many years through some extreme winters and its times like this when you achieve one of the fish that you dearly want that all those long hours are forgot and your next round of confidence keeps you moving forward.

The rest of that session remains a blur, but I ended up with eight runs and seven fish landed in total and my first decent fish for the album. But, there was one fish in particular that I also wanted, a fish with the same nickname as me Juggy!! It wasn’t a big fish at scrapper 30, but it was a stunning looking common and one that I had set myself as my winter target.

Over the next couple of weeks I visited the lake for an overnighter with a different friend and the consistent six or seven fish continued to come and I was also noticing how the bites had changed from early December where I would receive a single bleep to now one toners every time. Having not used the Ronnie rig last year I have returned to it on this water enabling me to present a white fluoro Mainline pop up perfectly and the hook holds have just been immense.

The end of January saw me have two weeks off with work commitments having to take priority, but I had booked myself on for two nights from the 31st January with a good friend and fellow PB Team member John Salt.

I had to go into work in the morning to check all the work had been submitted and my job was done for another year and I met John at my house at 12.30pm, him excited and enthusiastic as always

with his fishing and me a total exhausted mess having just got over the flu bug and the stress of meeting the work deadline.

The van was loaded up and it was the case of a switch of clothes and a cup of tea and a stop at the local coop for some refreshments and we were down the lake by 2.30pm. I sat in my usual peg and John to my right, that barrow trip with all the gear finished me off and I just wanted to get the rods out and have a sleep, I hadn’t slept properly for over a week and I felt rock bottom and the next thing I remember was my right hand rod going off and me coming out of a deep sleep. I went on to lose the fish to an unknown snag, but the rod was back out on the spot and the kettle went on and John came down and joined me for a few hours in the peg for a good catch up. During these next few hours that same rod went on to produce another four fish. I remember sitting there chatting with a full moon above us and John saying wouldn’t it be funny if you catch your target fish, it sat there on the back of my mind that night when I went to bed.

By morning and after that usual last run at first light I had now had nine runs and landed eight fish, all mid to upper doubles, but it was frustrating at the lack of 20’s. At lunchtime I had a one toner and went on to land a very strange looking carp at 18lb 4oz, obvious koi of nature and christened it the Michael Jackson fish.

My next run was to come at 3.30pm in the afternoon and was to be my tenth fish of the session, I had just took my cup down to Salty in the next swim and was chatting to him when a buzzer went followed by Salty saying that’s yours!

It was my right hand rod again and I hooked into the fish and from the start it felt bigger than anything I had previously hooked, in fact it just hugged the bottom and plodded around before going on one long run towards the bottom of the lake where a large patch of dead lily beds are.

I remember saying to Salty this feels something a little special and from a fish the old bailiff had been telling me about I thought it was a common that goes by the name of the silver common and when it goes on a run you just cannot stop it, but thankfully this one I did stop before it reached any danger and I turned it and slowly started to bring it back towards me, knowing I had snags down to my left in the margin I was half the time expecting to see it pop up in the middle of them as the weight on the end felt solid as it hugged the bottom.

Salty at this point had walked down the margins to my left to see if he could see what was on the end and as I played the fish I half had an eye on the fish and the other eye on Salty waiting a reaction from him of what was on the end that neither of us had yet seen.

The fish must have gone by him in the deep margins keeping low as in front of me and in the afternoon winter sun I caught my first glimpse of it, nothing obvious of what it was as it remained deep but a flash of gold told me it was a common.

I played it carefully, a few heart stopping moments as the line pinged off the fins, but when it did eventually go over the net it didn’t look anything at all special, just an average size I had been catching. When I put the rod down and opened the net I got my first proper look and straight away I recognised the fish from the way it stomach hangs and there lay before me was my winter target fish, the fish known as Juggy’s.

John did the honours with the scales for me and it went 26lb 4oz, a fish I thought was down in weight from having gone scraper 30, but now sits around this weight apparently. With the photographs done and the fish returned safely, John left me to take in what had happened and the rest of the session passed with another fish of 20lb 8oz and one lost fish.

The weather during that afternoon had turned to a North Easterly and the fishing slowed down and no further fish were caught, whether that was down to the switch in wind and drop in temperature or from pressure from the number of fish landed and they moved away from the spot.

Catching my winter target fish so soon into the campaign has made all those long dark hours and money spent prebaithing worthwhile and although I know a massive part of that capture was down to lady luck with the number of small carp competing for food, it is impossible to pin point a specific fish, but playing the numbers game and you just never know that one special fish that you are after could well be your next run. Tight lines J

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